Critical Read

FAA’s NextGen system off course, says IG

FAA NextGen

"Wheels Up" graphic from the FAA's NextGen website.

What: Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General Audit Report for Congress on underlying causes for NextGen air traffic control system delays

Why: The report covers the Federal Aviation Administration's development of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) -- a multibillion-dollar program intended to transform the national air traffic system. FAA manages the transformation in part through its National Airspace System enterprise architecture plan -- a strategic planning tool that details the integration and investment decisions required to advance NextGen.

The DOT IG report said that while FAA is making progress with NextGen elements, it continued to find longstanding problems with cost increases, schedule slips and performance shortfalls. The study, said the IG, was conducted to determine FAA’s progress on key enterprise architecture decisions related to achieving NextGen capabilities; identify underlying causes for FAA’s delays in advancing NextGen; and assess FAA’s recent reorganization to improve the management and execution of NextGen initiatives.

The report said that between January 2009 through May 2013, FAA made 157 key NextGen-related decisions, including critical spending plans for automation systems that controllers rely on to manage air traffic, an important foundation for NextGen. The study found the National Airspace System enterprise architecture wasn't being used effectively, however. For instance, it said some key decisions have not yet been made, such as funding needed for a NextGen weather-related system that was scheduled for 2010. Additionally, it said the FAA has deleted or replaced decisions without a clear understanding of how postponing these decisions could affect NextGen’s overall progress.

The report makes six recommendations on how FAA can improve management of the program.

Verbatim: "FAA’s NextGen plans -- which initially targeted completion for 2025 at a cost of $40 billion -- were overly ambitious, and FAA has yet to develop an executable implementation plan that addresses costs and technology development and integration."

Click here for the full report

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